Plights of a Bookworm #7: Reading Addiction

 

They say I gotta go to rehab, I say no, no no…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week, our esteemed mayor went to rehab (we think), confirming what I had been saying all along; there no such thing as a casual crack user. That, unlike other things (Baseball cards, scratching mosquito bites or Starbucks cinnamon dolce lattes), you can’t simply go out once in a while with some buddies and enjoy some crack.

You can’t just “like” crack.

But when does liking something become problematic? When does it become…An Addiction?

Recently, I started a new temporary job. It’s 1500x more rewarding but 150x more mentally taxing. Unlike my previous job, there is no shift work, so I’m on “regular people” hours, which is great. But I am exhausted! I’ve turned into one of those people, the ones I used to scoff at, the “I don’t have time to read” crowd. All I can muster the energy for after working all day and squeezing in a quick workout is to zone out in front of the TV for an hour and then maybe catch 5 minutes of reading before falling asleep at 10:30…10pm…9:30 sometimes.

At any rate, this Bookworm hasn’t been living up to her title. I’ve been re-reading “A prayer for Owen Meany” for almost 3 weeks! Absurd!

Then the symptoms started; irritability, apathy, fatigue, headaches*, and a rash on the back of my thumb that is NOT simply contact dermatitis, I don’t care what WebMD says.

It’s the Plight of a Bookworm #7: Reading Addiction.

So like any good addict, I took off from work early, refused to interact with my husband and sister**, grabbed the cat and headed out to my favorite reading spot. Now I finally feel like a functional person again***.

Gotta have my fix.

*The DSM defines addiction (dependence) using criteria including the following:

  • Withdrawal symptoms: Does the patient experience withdrawal symptoms when he or she does not use the drug?
  • **Reduced involvement: Has the patient given up or reduced his or her involvement in social, occupational or recreational activities due to the drug?
  • ***Person requires increased quantities of the drug to function normally.

 

Plight of a Bookworm #6: The Book Hangover

If you’ve been there, you know how this goes. It’s 2am. You’ve been reading this wonderful book for hours, ever since your 11pm “I’ll just read a few pages before I go to sleep” claim. It was a lie then, and you knew it. And just as you knew you would, you keep on reading, long, long into the night.

You have to be up in 6 hours to go to work/ school/ raise children.

“Just until the end of this chapter.”

Eyes sore, head heavy, arms weak

“I can’t stop now, I need to see what happens!”

Your husband/ wife/ girlfriend/boyfriend/cat is snoring peacefully beside you, after all this time accustomed to being forced to sleep with a reading lamp on.

“I’m almost done the book, I might as well keep going”

Flash forward to the next day: You’re tired. You’ve got a headache and red, dry eyes. Maybe the thought of starting another book makes you a little nauseous. Sitting in a dim, quiet room, wolfing down that greasy lumberjack breakfast, moaning about how you’ll “Never do that again”?

You’ve got a Book Hangover!

Not only are you suffering from lack of sleep and from reading under dim light, but after binge reading a great book, the last thing you want to do is start another right away (unless there’s a sequel of course!) You’re still stuck in that world, still relating to those characters. It would be like suddenly starting a whole new life, it’s almost unthinkable. Just like any other hangover, you’ll want to refrain from any heavy reading, maybe have a nap, read a palate-cleansing magazine or watch some T.V.

But make no mistake, you’ll do it again.

Plight of a Bookworm #5: “What’s your favorite book?”

 

I don’t know why I asked it. Maybe it was the shock of hearing someone say that they hated “The Time Travellers’ Wife”. Maybe it was a 2:45 pm blood sugar low. All I know is, I didn’t mean to say it, but I opened my mouth and there it was: “Well, what IS your favorite book, then?”

And there it was. One of my most hated things to be asked, and I had just asked it of another person. She looked (understandably) taken aback. I felt (suitably) ashamed of my behavior. Because, as any bookworm knows, the worst book-related question to be asked, and todays “Plight of a Bookworm” is:

“What’s your favorite book?”

If it is well-known that you like to read, then this is a question you will encounter often. It’s a favorite of various icebreakers and of first dates and online profiles of any sort. But here’s the thing, I don’t have a favorite book. At all. For me, this is up there with “Who’s your favorite child? Come on, there has to be one that stands out.”

Lots of books stand out.

The first book I read so much that the cover fell completely off (Billie Letts-Where the Heart Is).

My favorite book for when I want to read about great parties and terrible people (F. Scott Fitzgerald-The Great Gastby)

My favorite expose of the inner workings of Mormon polygamous cults (John Krakauer-Under the Banner of Heaven).

My favorite book for subverting the patriarchy (Jessica Valenti- Full Frontal Feminism)

My favorite autobiography of a person famous for nothing but her autobiographies (Jennifer Lancaster-Bitter is the New Black )

My favorite childrens’ book (Classic: Dr. Seuss-One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, New: Drew Daywalt-The day the Crayons Quit)

Favorite guilty pleasure books (Sophie Kinsella- Confessions of a Shopaholic  Series)

Plus there are so many more books that I couldn’t live without that don’t fit into any categories. Favorite books are like songs or body parts or friends, you can’t have just have one. Someone could really like “Party Rock Anthem” but they maybe wouldn’t always want to hear it, like at a funeral (actually, that would be pretty awesome…). I like some books and dislike others, but there isn’t any one book that I am always in the mood for. While being asked “Whats your favorite book?” may not stress normal people out the way it does a bookworm, I think a lot of people would have difficulty answering it.

So, if you ever want to strike up a conversation about books, do NOT ask “Whats your favorite book?”. Be better than that, show a little respect, be a more creative conversationalist. Ask “Whats your favorite book that was set in the future upon writing, but is now in the past?

And, obviously (George Orwell-1984).

Plights of a Bookworm 4: “I’m not bored, I’m reading”

Like my fictional hero, Rory Gilmore, I almost always have at least one book on my person. So when bits of time come up, I can read. I read, to quote the great Dr. Seuss, while waiting for a train to go, or a bus to come, or a plane to go, for the mail to come or the rain to go. But my very best reading time is on my lunch break at work. I can take 30 minutes, forget all about work problems, and just chill out with my salad and my book. It is the very best part of my day.

Until.

Some well-meaning soul comes along to “rescue” me from my apparent boredom. The problem is that they are sorely mistaken. There is literally not one other thing I would rather be doing right now. I especially don’t want to be listening to how shitty your day is and then seeing pictures of you and your wife on vacation. I have my own shitty day and my own unflattering bathing suit pictures to deal with, and I’m trying to forget about them by READING MY BOOK.

If I was typing away on a laptop, you wouldn’t bother me. If I was talking on the phone, you wouldn’t bother me. Reading is not something I do because I don’t have anyone to eat lunch with. I deliberately take a late lunch and sit by myself so I might have time to read another Malcolm Gladwell essay, or finish The Book Thief so I can review it later.

I would say about 70% of the population understands that my book is a “Do not Disturb” sign, and to them I say, thank you. Your thoughtfulness in sitting at another table makes it possible for me to re-charge and be my charming and lovely self in the second half of my day. The rest of you need to listen up:

I’m not bored. I’m reading.

 

Plights of a Bookworm #3: The Book Fail

I’m not good at sports. So when I get talked into participating in one and I inevitably get hit in the face with a football or I bruise my tailbone falling on the ice while missing the puck, it doesn’t break my heart. I know from the outset that failure is a very likely outcome, and with those expectations, my self-esteem is buffered.

However I am, or so I like to think, a “good reader”. “Good” in the sense that I enjoy it, I read a variety of books and can usually retain and discuss their content with some degree of intelligence. Hence, my ability to read well is linked to my self-worth in a more critical way than sports (or crafts, or dancing, or training my cat not to bite people…).

And so, the 3rd Plight of a Bookworm is…The Book Fail.

If you’re not really into books, just reading this blog because you know me or find me mildly amusing (thank you!) than you probably don’t really understand what I mean. You probably don’t “fail” at books. You stop reading them because they are boring or too long or difficult or complicated or you find another book you’d rather read. You can stop reading a book for any number of reasons, and feel no shame. Good for you!
However, if when you read the phrase “Book Fail”, you immediately and uncontrollably clenched your fists and whispered “Anna Karenina”* or “Les Miserables”, then you’re with me on this.

It’s a pretty major blow to the self-esteem to fail at something you think you’re good at. To put a book back on the shelf or bring it back to the library unfinished? SO Disheartening!

Especially one that you felt so smug about reading in the first place. Looking down on the people around you on the subway with their Maeve Binchy’s while you’re looking so smart with your tome of choice. Then to fail? Devastating!

Then when people ask you about it later, like “Oh, was Les Miserables the musical anything like the book?” And you have to own up to your failure or lie about it? The Worst!
(also, no judgement if you lie. None at all ;))

But let’s try to practice a little self-forgiveness this year, fellow bookworms.

If we never failed, it would mean we were living a life without challenges. Which would give us nothing to strive for, which would make for a very boring life indeed. So keep reading those tough books! Some of them won’t be for you, and that’s ok. The fact that you’re failing means that you’re trying your best.

Others maybe deserve another try when you have more brain-power to spare, and when you finally finish them, you’ll feel so much better than if you just re-read “Shopaholic Ties the Knot”. The bigger the challenge, the sweeter the success!

Although the Book Fail might be a plight of a bookworm, it’s also a sign that you’re doing something right.

*In my defence, ALL of the names in that book were SO similar, and they were Russian. I’m already bad with names, so turning back every few pages, going “Which Alexi is she talking about?” is the least fun ever.

Plight of a Bookworm #2: “Thanks, but I don’t read, really.”

Once in a while, I’ll be reading a book and it will occur to me who that book really belongs to. The one person I know who simply HAS to read this book because they would just LOVE it. Being that I love my family and friends and I love books, nothing makes me happier than matchmaking the perfect person and the perfect book.

Until this happens:

“That does sound like a good book…but I don’t read, really.”

You don’t read…really?

Hold on. First of all, I know that you really  read because you drove here AND ordered a pulled pork sandwich from a menu without pictures. Also I have yet to see you mistakenly pour yourself a glass of lemon scented cleanser to drink so I feel like the skills are in place.

Secondly, if you watch T.V., you obviously don’t take an issue with storytelling in general. Also, T.V and movies come from scripts….which are kind of like books! So, what’s the problem?

I know, I know. To each their own hobbies. I would probably respond in much the same way if someone suggested they had the perfect baseball card to start my collection or some new rope for the big hog-tying competition.

But…reading…really?

 

Plights of a bookworm #1: Character Over-Attachment

I remember it well, my first was Walter Blythe, Anne and Gilberts’ son from the Anne of Green Gables series. I’ll never forget sitting on my backyard swing set, 12 years old, new copy of “Rilla of Ingleside“, crying my little heart out.

“No!” I sobbed “Not Walter! He didn’t even want to go to war. He’s the SENSITIVE one!” I had fallen victim to one of the many plights of bookworms: Character Over-attachment. 

Of course, it bears mentioning that I wasn’t the only victim here, my mother had to try and make sense of the fact that her 12-year old was too upset about the WW1 battle of Courcelette to eat lunch that day 😉

There have been many more since then, characters that have surprised, delighted and disappointed us. Broken our hearts as effectively as any real life person. Set standards for the living people in our lives. Books not only add their plots to out lives, but add their characters to its cast.

Anyone else out there willing to own up to their own character over-attachment?